CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker’s bid to unseat the leader of the Democratic Party is becoming more chaotic by the day.
An Illinois abortion rights group joined the fight ahead of Saturday’s vote by opposing Rep. Robin Kelly, the first black woman to chair the state party, in her bid for a full four-year term. This, in turn, prompted a Cook County official to make racial allegations before stepping down as a co-sponsor for a fundraiser hosted by the group.
“As a black woman, I think of the dog whistles that raised legal questions about becoming the first African American and the first woman to lead the Illinois Democratic Party,” Cook County Commissioner Donna Miller said in a statement Wednesday. “The party is under thriving [Kelly’s] Guide.”
Miller’s comments came after the Congressional Black Caucus PAC entered the debate in support of Kelly, while the Illinois AFL-CIO announced it is backing Pritzker-backed Latina nominee State Rep. Lisa Hernandez.
And in an awkward exchange Tuesday at a joint news conference with the Democratic National Committee, where Pritzker and Kelly stood side-by-side at times, a reporter asked Pritzker how to say Democrats were united when he tried to “kick” Kelly boot”. her post.
The clashes come at an awkward time as the Democratic National Committee is visiting Chicago to assess it as a potential 2024 convention site. And the injection of racial politics complicates matters for Pritzker, who not only is seeking re-election in the fall but is increasingly testing the 2024 presidential waters.
Among those from the Black Caucus who pledged their support for Kelly was Majority Whip James Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat known for making the influential decision to vote for Joe Biden in South Carolina’s presidential primary to support 2020. Putting Biden on track for victory on Super Tuesday and beyond.
But one of Pritzker’s allies in his bid to unseat Kelly is House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, the first African American to serve as speaker in Illinois. And in last year’s party leadership race to fill out the remainder of the previous leader’s term, Pritzker endorsed a black candidate who narrowly lost to Kelly.
On Saturday, the election of the party chair will take place among 34 members of the state central committee. At the Democratic National Committee press conference, Pritzker said the party would remain united regardless of the outcome.
Pritzker has repeatedly said he only opposes Kelly because of the legal restrictions on fundraising that apply to her due to her rare dual roles as federal lawmaker and party leader. Abortion rights group Personal PAC also expressed concern about Kelly’s ability to raise funds, claiming the restrictions could hurt the efforts of Illinois abortion rights advocates, which Miller called a “troubling” allegation.
The Federal Election Commission ruled last year that Kelly can only raise money for federal candidates and that state candidates’ money must be raised by a separate committee that is not subject to its review.
“The fundamental problem with Robin as chair is that she doesn’t raise enough money,” said John Cullerton, former President of the Illinois Senate and a member of the State Central Committee. “The rest is all friendly. It has nothing to do with personality.”
That sentiment hasn’t calmed people like Cook County Commissioner Miller, who accused Personal PAC, an abortion rights group, of using a “dog whistle” when supporting Hernandez against Kelly.
“Personal PAC didn’t raise the same questions about the previous chairman when he was investigated at the federal level and eventually indicted,” Miller said of longtime chairman Mike Madigan, who resigned last year.
In a text message reply, Personal PAC executive director Terry Cosgrove said, “From day one, Personal PAC has been proud to support and stand by the first African American Speaker of the Illinois House.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/politics-news/illinois-democratic-party-chair-fight-turns-ugly-accusations-racism-rcna40373 Illinois Democratic Party leadership battle turns ugly with accusations of racism